DOH Denied My Medical Marijuana Permit Application. Now what?

At 1 PM today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health plans to announce the recipients of the first twelve permits to grow and process medical marijuana.  A live stream of the event is available at http://pacast.com/players/live_doh.asp.  Most applicants will be denied permits, because the odds are steep – only about one applicant in fifteen will be successful (except in Southeastern PA where only about one applicant in thirty will be successful). 

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HIKO Energy v. PUC:  Divided Commonwealth Court Upholds $1.8 Million Civil Penalty

In HIKO Energy, LLC v. Pennsylvania PUC, No. 5 C.D. 2016, slip op. (June 8, 2017), a divided Commonwealth Court affirmed the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) civil penalty of approximately $1.84 million against HIKO Energy, LLC (HIKO), an electric generation supplier (EGS) which, during the polar vortex effects of the winter of 2014, intentionally charged 5,700 customers a rate that exceeded their “guaranteed” introductory rate on nearly 15,000 invoices at the express direction of its management and chief executive officer (CEO).  The PUC’s policy for evaluating litigated and settled proceedings involving violations of the Public Utility Code (Code), which exposes companies who are unwilling or unable to negotiate a settlement to greater penalties, resulted in a penalty far greater than those imposed on EGSs that settled complaints stemming from the 2014 polar vortex.  The Court’s decision endorses both the PUC policy and its result, and underscores the importance of retaining counsel with the experience to negotiate early settlements in complaints alleging serious Code violations. 

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PA Supreme Court Further Demolishes Act 13 in Robinson Township Remand Appeal

On September 28, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Court) ruled[1] on a Commonwealth Court remand decision[2] of the Robinson Township 2013 Court decision,[3] where the Court held key provisions of Act 13[4] (the statute implementing major changes in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas laws and the ability of local government to regulate this industry) were unconstitutional (HMS Blog).  In the 2016 Robinson Township decision, the Court:  (1) upheld the Commonwealth Court’s holding that provisions related to Public Utility Commission (PUC) review of local ordinances are unseverable from unconstitutional provisions and thus unenforceable, and (2) held four additional provisions of Act 13, including the grant of eminent domain, unconstitutional. 

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Uber Week for Uber in PA - Commonwealth Court Affirms PUC’s Authorization of Raiser’s Service (an Uber Subsidiary) and PUC Decreases Recommended $49 Mil Civil Penalty to $11 Mil

            In an April 19, 2016 Opinion, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court[1] affirmed the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) grant of a certificate of public convenience (CPC) for experimental authority to operate as a common carrier to Raiser-PA, LLC (Raiser) in Pennsylvania, excluding Philadelphia.[2]  Raiser is a subsidiary of Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber), which licenses the technology to Raiser that allows users to request a ride via smartphone app. 

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PA Supreme Court Eliminates Agency Appeal Waiver Trap

Last week on our list of waiver traps for Pennsylvania appellate practitioners (“Taking an Appeal in PA? 10 Waiver Traps to Avoid,” 24 Nov. 2014), we included the warning “be specific enough in your petition for review.”  Fortunately, effective January 1, 2015, that trap has largely disappeared, as the result of yesterday’s amendment to Pa. R.A.P. 1513(d).  That rule, which requires the petitioner from an agency order to include in an appellate petition for review a “general statement of the objections to the order or other determination,” has too often been the basis for a finding of waiver of issues not specifically mentioned, sometimes resulting in the outright quashing of an entire appeal on essentially technical “gotcha” grounds.  The rule as amended retains the requirement for a “general statement of objections,” but adds the important qualification that “the omission of an issue from the statement shall not be the basis for a finding of waiver if the court is able to address the issue based on the certified record.”  The Official Note explains that the purpose of the amendment is to “preclude a finding of waiver” if an issue that is briefed but omitted from the petition for review can be addressed by the court on the basis of the certified record.  In other words, if an issue is otherwise preserved, but overlooked in the petition for review, that fact will no longer be a basis for a finding of waiver.  One less thing to worry about for administrative law practitioners!

A copy of the amendment to Rule 1513 can be found here.

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